Gino's East versus Giordano's Pizza
Gino's East (www.ginoseast.com)
May 9, 2010: The big question on all of our minds was who makes the best deep dish Chicago-style pizza. Every chance we got, we asked native Chicagoans this question. We narrowed it down to our "final four" - Pizzeria Uno, Gino's East, Lou Malnatis, and Giordano's. After much discussion, we crossed Lou Malnatis and Pizzeria Uno off the list. For some reason (and I can't really remember why) we agreed that we didn't want to try Lou Malnatis even though it had been featured on the Food Network and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Since Pizzeria Unos are all over DC and we had eaten there before, that one was out - which left us with Gino's East or Giordano's.
Although Gino's East won the popular vote when polling all the cab drivers we encountered in Chicago, Giordano's won the electoral vote among the hotel staff. If you believe Wikipedia, the original Gino's East opened in 1966, by two taxi drivers, Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli, and a friend, George Laverde - so our polling participants' opinions may have been slightly skewed and not as random a population as we would have liked. Amy made the decision since her stay in Chicago was shorter than Maria's and my stay - after all we had the whole week to try Giordano's. She decided to go with the popular vote and chose Gino's East.
We went early for lunch to beat the Mother's Day's crowds and decided to try the original Gino's East on 633 North Wells Street. In the restaurant, the graffiti-filled walls were certainly a sight to see and of course, we couldn't leave without leaving our own etchings on the wall.
Now to the food - we first ordered the family size tossed salad which was very unremarkable. It reminded me of the salads you get at Olive Garden (and yes I've eaten at Olive Garden!). The only positive thing I can say about this salad is that it fulfilled one serving in the vegetable group.
For the pizza, we ordered one of their medium specialty pizzas -half with crumbled sausage and half with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and pepperoni - to share between the three of us. The pizzas are cooked to order and we waited approximately 30 to 40 minutes for our pizza. It was well worth the wait. The pizza had an interesting cornmeal crust and came with layers of cheese, toppings and sauce, which was very tasty. Crushed red pepper at the table adds a nice spice to the sauce - so don't forget to sprinkle some on your piece.
The pizza is so good that you can't eat just one piece. A word of warning, resist that urge - the pizza is extremely heavy and two pieces can easily push you over the edge. We each had two pieces and none of us wanted to eat the rest of the day -but of course we did eat later that day (see the Purple Pig and Mercat a la Planxa). After all, we were in Chicago.
Giordano's Pizza (www.giordanos.com)
May 11, 2010: Maria and I decided to check out Giordano's Pizzeria one evening after a long day of work meetings (we didn't just come to Chicago to eat). We were lucky to have a Giordano's one block from our hotel. We ordered exactly the same thing at Giordano's as we ordered at Gino's East. We were determined to resolve the debate over whose pizza is better.
As you can see in the picture below, Giordano's pizza looked like Gino's East's identical twin. But we all know even identical twins are not the same. Giordano's pizza lacked the personality in the flavor of Gino's East pizza. The pizza toppings were just as heavy but the sauce was not tasty and actually quite bland. The crust was a typical pizza dough and lacked the distinctive cornmeal flavor of Gino's crust.
Once again, and trust me on this - resist the urge to have two pieces. I, once again, had two pieces and regretted it later that evening.
It was unanimous, Maria and I agreed that Gino's East wins the pizza debate.